Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fourth Floor Report: A Button-Downed Atmosphere, Plus: Fresh Political Chatter On House And Senate Races, And: Counting The Jobs 

Let's start this Tuesday with the stuff you won't get anywhere else....

So what's the mood and atmosphere like on the storied Fourth Floor of the Roundhouse where Governor Martinez is ensconced and which was previously occupied by Big Bill? One of our Senior Alligators in Santa Fe is on the case:

The "inner sanctum," better known as the Governor's Office, looks different. Governor Richardson's 4th floor was exciting, with many personalities, loads of people of all colors, and nationalities on staff. Their private offices were full of color, photos on walls, papers piled high and there was often great laughter. People were enjoying themselves. In comparison, Martinez's staff are tight lipped, seldom smile, neat in appearance (as are their offices), trash cans are empty and they are never seen around after closing hours. By the way, there are no pictures hanging from the walls. Is this a subliminal message that their time is temporary?

Interesting contrast, but the tenor of the times has changed as well and maybe that's what we are seeing reflected in the corridors of power. Richardson presided in an era of mostly plenty while Martinez has the helm in a time of sparseness. Having said that, it's not unfair to point out that Democrats generally have a lot more fun in government because they like it. Republicans tolerate it. As for any notion that the new Fourth Floor occupants believe their stay is "temporary," they have at least four years and in this job market that's not bad job security.

One other point. Richardson was a garrulous, around the clock governor. Martinez is a no-nonsense administrator with a limited agenda. There's no need to keep the staff working late.


A reader analyzes the first quarter finance report of Dem Congressman and US Senate candidate Martin Heinrich in which he reports having $350,000 in cash on hand:

The total Heinrich raised in this quarter is up $110,000 from the amount he raised during the same quarter in 2009. It looks like almost 90 percent of his donations are from New Mexicans. He has consolidated the financial support from a number of key donor groups necessary for any successful Democratic candidate: Hispanics, attorneys and labor.

He got contributions from Ambassador Ed Romero, former First Lady Clara Apodaca as well as Teamsters (DRIVE Committee), IBEW, Plumbers and Pipefitters and the national trial lawyers. Heinrich looks impressive for the primary as a quick look of financial reports suggest that he has raised more in the last three months than his likely primary opponent--State Auditor Hector Balderas--has raised in the last six years.

Heinrich is looking strong, but not yet inevitable. It is the threat of a Hispanic challenge--even from a relatively unknown Balderas--that keeps everyone in check. Insiders say the Democratic primary voting model for 2012 has Hispanics comprising over 60% of the vote. But Balderas is playing with fire here. If he mounts a challenge that wimps out or harms him in some way, he could blow his chances of becoming attorney general in a couple of years. Heinrich needs to continue to attract support from prominent Hispanics and the Dem interest groups that our reader noted popped up in his finance report.


Sen. Keller
And the guessing game continues over Dem candidates for the ABQ House seat that Heinrich is giving up to pursue the Senate post. The pool of potential candidates shrunk by one Monday when ABQ State Senator Tim Keller told us he definitely will not run. The decision, he explained, was both personal and political. He is getting married this September and hopes to start a family. He adds he is more interested in New Mexico issues. That puts mayor of ABQ or state Treasurer on his radar, but not Congress. Keller, 33, will seek re-election to his SE Heights Senate seat next year. He'll have some new family help. Keller's bride-to-be was a field coordinator for Heinrich.

Insiders reveal that national Dems scouted the area for candidates last week. State Senator Eric Griego has announced an exploratory committee, but Dems are by no means convinced that he would be their strongest contender. Their chief worry is that Griego is too liberal for the moderate district. State Rep. Al Park has been seen as a Dem with a more moderate bent, but he has told friends he is looking at running for the Public Regulation Commission, not the US House.

Meanwhile, a new name has surfaced as a possible. He's Stuart Paisano, the former Governor of Sandia Pueblo. Friends say he is giving it a serious look. State Rep. Moe Maestas has formed an exploratory committee, but insiders are not convinced he will give up his House seat to make the run. Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham, who made a previous run for the Dem nomination for the seat, continues to weigh a campaign. Terry Brunner, regional head of USDA, is also on the radar but is not yet moving towards a run. And then there's Diane Denish, the 2010 Dem guv nominee. Friends say don't rule her out of the running. And we won't.


Back on the Senate race and on the Republican side. DC Dem reader Stephen Clermont has some questions for GOP hopeful Heather Wilson who declined comment when asked what she thought about the short-term budget deal recently worked out by top House R's:

If Wilson is hedging on whether she supports the 2011 budget deal which only cuts $39 billion, from this year’s deficit, how would she vote on the Paul Ryan budget which calls for block granting Medicaid, changing Medicare entirely and making deep cuts in the top tax rate? She voted against her party in 2005-2006 on Medicaid cuts and was eviscerated in the 2008 primary because of that and her vote to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The Ryan Budget basically ends the S-CHIP program. Would she vote for that if she were in the House right now? If she voted against it, how is she different than Democrat Martin Heinrich? She will need a lot more than $282,000 cash on hand to square this circle.

That pretty much details Heather's problems in a conservative-minded Republican primary. We could throw in her vote to bail out the banks in 2008, which also enraged conservatives, but why pile on?

By the way, in our first draft yesterday we blogged that Heather only won Bernalillo County in her 2008 GOP Senate primary against Steve Pearce. Not so. She failed to win any of the southern counties, but did win 10 of the 33 statewide. For the record, we looked at the official vote canvass. Heather carried Colfax, Harding, Los Alamos, McKinley, Mora, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Taos, Torrance and Union. Pearce beat her statewide 57,953 to 55,039.


That state jobless report that said we lost 11,000 professional and business service jobs in the state in the year ending in February hit us right between the eyes. The report said 3,000 of the jobs were lost between January and February. But there is now some question about its accuracy:

Based on history, “that doesn’t make sense,” Lee Reynis, director of the University of New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research said. “We thought that number was unbelievable.” Workforce Solutions found it puzzling, too, she said. Most likely, she said, simply by chance survey results were obtained from a small number of firms that had suffered job losses. When statistical techniques were used to simulate the behavior of the industry, based on the surveys, the result was probably skewed too high, Reynis said.

While it's important to note that we may not have lost as many professional and service jobs as that report stated, in the past Reynis has also said overall unemployment in New Mexico has been under reported because of sampling techniques. Here's a quote Reynis gave us in April 2009:

Historically, NM's rate of unemployment has been significantly higher than the US average, although it was occasionally and usually briefly, as in the aftermath of the 90-91 recession, at or slightly below the US. The Bureau of Labor Statistics made a change in methodology sometime around 2005 forcing us to conform to a regional control total and, since around 2007, has been requiring that the NM Dept. of Workforce Solutions use their control totals. With these changes, NM's rates have been extremely low.

As far as making a living here, we rank 37th among the 50 states, says MoneyRates.com.

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